17 April 2015
The thousands of South Africans who took part in a peace march in Durban on Thursday have spoken in one voice, calling for peace and for an end to attacks on foreign nationals.
The peace march was organised by the KwaZulu-Natal government in response to the violent attacks against foreign nationals in various parts of the province, especially the greater Durban area.
Five people, including a 14-year-old boy, have been killed in the attacks that have flared up in several parts of KwaZulu-Natal, including KwaMashu and Umlazi, over the past two weeks. The violence has spread to parts of Gauteng, including Johannesburg.
The march, which started at Curries Fountain and proceeded to City Hall, was led by Premier Senzo Mchunu, who was joined by the political leadership, faith-based organisations, NGOs, thousands of South Africans as well as foreign nationals.
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Among those who joined the march were ANC Treasurer Dr Zweli Mkhize; eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo; State Security Minister David Mahlobo; Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu; and Speaker of the provincial legislature Lydia Johnson. First Lady Thobeka Mabhida-Zuma also joined the marchers.
‘Barbaric and inhumane’
Speaking on behalf of national government, Mahlobo condemned the attacks, describing them as barbaric and inhumane. The minister warned people not to take the law into their own hands, emphasising that when a crime is committed, the law should be allowed to take its course.
Johnson made a commitment on behalf of members of the provincial legislature to meet with communities and “speak in one voice” against attacks on foreign nationals. “Let’s all work together and accept them, and when you go home, pass on the message of love,” he said.
Nomvuzo Shabalala, the deputy mayor of eThekwini municipality, warned that the attacks on foreign nationals affected the country’s economy, which then leads to a decrease in job opportunities.
Police have arrested 74 people for offences including murder, public violence, business robbery, theft and possession of firearms and ammunition.
‘Shocking and unacceptable’
Meanwhile, in his address to the National Assembly in Parliament on Thursday, President Jacob Zuma condemned the recent “shocking and unacceptable” incidents of violence directed at foreign nationals and appealed for calm.
The President said the attacks could not be justified under any circumstances: “We appeal for calm, an end to the violence and restraint.”
He said government will take stern action against those responsible for the violence and looting and ensure that they are brought to book.
“No amount of frustration or anger can justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops. We condemn the attacks in the strongest terms. The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies, especially the respect for human life, human rights, human dignity and Ubuntu. Our country stands firmly against all intolerances such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism,” he said.
When the incidents broke out in KwaZulu-Natal last week, Zuma deployed Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and State Security Minister David Mahlobo to work with provincial authorities to quell the violence and bring the situation under control.
“They have done well, but the problem requires a much more comprehensive and substantive long-term intervention. I have therefore assigned the entire Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster to work on this issue intensively, joined by the Ministers of Social Development, Trade and Industry and Small Business Development.”
Zuma said the security cluster and economic departments had already begun working on the matter following the incidents in Soweto, Gauteng, in January.
“I have now directed them to work faster and to engage affected communities, organisations representing foreign nationals, business, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to attend to the concerns raised on both sides.”
He said the objective was to avoid future incidents by improving relations and promoting peaceful co-existence between citizens and “brothers and sisters within the continent, as well as other foreign nationals”.
The government was also seeking co-operation from the affected foreign missions based in South Africa.